Over the next couple weeks, the Rotoworld staff will look at some players whose arrows are pointing up for 2013. Fantasy risers, if you will. We’ll break them down by division. The American League East and American League Central have been crossed off the list. Now we turn to the American League West.
Jarrod Parker, SP, Athletics
Parker didn’t even make the A’s Opening Day rotation this season, as the final spot went to the virtually anonymous Graham Godfrey. But, he replaced Godfrey before the end of April and never looked back, going on to tie for the team lead with 13 wins while posting a 3.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 140 strikeouts over 181 1/3 innings.
Even more encouraging than Parker’s terrific rookie season is the fact that he still has plenty of room to grow. The young right-hander boasts an impressive minor league track record that includes a 3.41 ERA and 345 strikeouts over 366 1/3 innings, and he was ranked as a top 50 prospect every year from 2008-2012 by Baseball America. He’ll also turn just 24 this weekend and will continue to benefit from pitching his home games in the spacious O.co Coliseum. Parker should lead a talented A’s rotation for years to come.
Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers
When scouring top prospect lists this offseason, you’ll find Profar’s name at or near the top of them. The 19-year-old wunderkind has rose quickly through the Rangers’ system and in 2012 made the jump from Double-A to the majors for a cup of coffee. He went deep in his first at-bat and also added a couple doubles among his 17 plate appearances.
Profar hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers in the minors, as he sports a good-but-not-great .276/.367/.450 batting line over 304 games. But, he’s also averaged 13 homers and 20 steals in his two full seasons while boasting an impressive 159/188 BB/K ratio. Keep in mind that he put up those numbers against players much older than him. Make no mistake; this is a superstar in the making.
The only question is whether Profar will have a regular role in 2013. The Rangers have discussed moving Ian Kinsler to the outfield to make room for Profar at second base. They could also wind up trading Elvis Andrus, despite their claims that they’re not willing to do so. Either way, the chances are pretty good that he’ll find his way into the lineup often in 2013.
Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, Mariners
Iwakuma failed to earn a rotation spot for the M’s out of spring training and slid into a long relief role. He wasn’t terribly effective out of the bullpen, posting a 4.75 ERA and 23/15 K/BB ratio over 30 1/3 innings. However, Seattle decided to give the Japanese import a shot in the rotation, and the results were awfully impressive.
The 31-year-old wound up making 16 starts for the Mariners and put together a 2.65 ERA and 78/28 K/BB ratio over 95 frames. That work from July on convinced the M’s to lock up the free agent with a new two-year, $14 million deal. It must be noted that Iwakuma was much better at home (2.49 ERA) than on the road (4.20 ERA). And while he didn’t deal with any apparent shoulder issues in 2012, his right shoulder was often a problem for him in Japan. That said, he certainly showed enough that there’s potential late-round value here if he can stay healthy.
Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Mariners
Just a few years ago, Wilhelmsen had given up on baseball and was bartending to make a living. Now he’s one of the more dominant relievers in the American League.
Wilhelmsen began the 2012 campaign as a setup man for the Mariners but wound up taking over the ninth inning role in early June following Brandon League’s demotion. The numbers the former bartender put up from June on were pretty remarkable: 1.67 ERA, 57 strikeouts over 54 innings, .172 opponents’ batting average. All told, the soon-to-be 29-year-old posted a 2.50 ERA while striking out 87 over 79 1/3 innings, recording 29 saves in the process. He should be drafted as an elite fantasy closer next season.
Jed Lowrie, SS, Astros
In his first season with the Astros, Lowrie showed what he often put on display while with the Red Sox: promise, mixed in with injury susceptibility.
Lowrie belted 16 home runs in 2012, which tied him for fourth among shortstops. He also showed off his plate discipline by walking 43 times in 387 plate appearances. But, therein lies the rub, as Lowrie was able to make just 387 trips to the plate because of knee and ankle injuries. Injuries have been a common theme during the 28-year-old’s career, and it’s something to keep in mind at the draft table next spring. That said, shortstops capable of homering once every 20 at-bats don’t grow on trees.
Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics
Acquired from the Red Sox last offseason, Reddick was quite a find for the A’s. The 25-year-old exceeded all expectations in his first season in Oakland, blasting 32 home runs, driving in 85, stealing 11 bases and winning a Gold Glove.
Much of Reddick’s production in 2012 came in the first half, when he batted .268/.348/.532 with 20 longballs. He turned into an all-or-nothing player after the break, hitting 12 over the boards but sporting just a .215/.256/.391 batting line. While plate discipline can often be an issue (55/151 BB/K ratio), the good news with Reddick is that he’s in no danger of falling into a platoon role. He slugged .473 against southpaws in 2012 and has a higher career OPS against lefties (.757) than righties (.740). The average probably will never be anything special, but Reddick should have no problem slugging 20+ homers with regularity.
Ernesto Frieri, RP, Angels
The Angels acquired Frieri from the Padres in early May in an under-the-radar deal hoping that he would help out their bullpen. Help he did, as Frieri ultimately seized the ninth inning role on his way to a 23-save season.
Remarkably, Frieri didn’t give up a hit in his first 13 appearances as an Angel, and he didn’t allow a run in his first 26 games. His 98 strikeouts trailed only Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen among relievers. Frieri can have a problem with walks (career 4.5 BB/9), and he had some struggles after the All-Star break (4.50 ERA), which may be the reason the Angels have been linked to a few relievers this winter. If given the opportunity, Frieri is clearly capable of being a stud fantasy closer for a good Angels club.
Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers
Darvish’s ERA (3.90) and WHIP (1.28) might have been a tad disappointing, but he piled up 221 strikeouts and could take a step forward in 2013.
A.J. Griffin, SP, Athletics
Griffin faded a bit down the stretch, but he still posted a nifty 3.06 ERA and 64/19 K/BB ratio over 82 1/3 frames. He won’t turn 25 until just before spring training.
Dan Straily, SP, Athletics
Yet another impressive young A’s arm, Straily dominated in the minors before impressing in a second-half audition, posting a 3.89 ERA while striking out 32 over 39 1/3 innings.
Wilton Lopez, RP, Astros
He might not light up the radar gun or see a ton of save chances in Houston, but Lopez has been terrific each of the last three years for the Astros.
Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners
Saunders somewhat quietly fell just one homer shy of a 20/20 campaign in 2012. He’s an underrated power/speed option.
Mike Olt, 3B/1B, Rangers
Olt’s power potential is undeniable, but will he have a big role for the Rangers in 2013?